Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the South West Coast Path Association has recently launched an exciting new Coast Path Connectors project that aims to open up coastal walking to a range of new audiences. This project will help improve equity of access along the South West Coast Path by supporting local people in making the most of our amazing trail, for their health and well-being, through a network of new volunteers.
The project involves the setting up of several walk hubs in Plymouth, West Cornwall, Torbay, Dorset and North Devon and in each of these areas, we are making contact with organisations that work with people who might benefit from organised walks for health and wellbeing. Each hub has a Project Officer who recruits and trains volunteers to become ‘Volunteer Community Rangers’. These new volunteers will act as walk leaders, walk buddies, points of contact and advocates for the Coast Path in their local communities, and will also show people the heritage and nature in their local area, with the goal of sparking an interest which will make people feel more confident about returning and engaging with nature on future visits.
March has been a time for planning and meetings with potential partners, and our Coast Path Connectors team are busy making plans for the year ahead.
In Plymouth, there has been some good progress recruiting community groups to be involved in the project, and preparation is well under way for walks beginning later in the spring. A group from Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support has already started exploring the city coastline during walks in February and March, when we discovered some of the many small beaches along Plymouth Hoe and admired the beautiful views and fascinating heritage found around Devil’s Point and the Royal William Yard. Another organisation we will be working with is Sensory Solutions, who support people with sight and hearing impairments. At the beginning of March, Plymouth Project Officer, Gemma Dunn, went along with two volunteers to some sighted guide training provided at their hub in Plymouth. Gemma said “It was great to attend the training with a couple of volunteers who will be involved in delivering walks, so that we can all be more aware of the challenges faced by people experiencing sight and hearing loss. The training has inspired us to ensure that this project is as inclusive as possible, so more people can discover the joys of spending time on the Coast Path.”
The Coast Path Connectors project got up and running in Cornwall this month as potential volunteers and walk leaders met on a soggy Wednesday to enjoy our coastal path around Helford Passage. We teamed up with friends Trebah Gardens, who invited us into their café and grounds to warm up with a hot drink afterwards. Jack who is the Project Officer for Cornwall said “It was fantastic to see such a fabulous turnout to this walk, and speaking with those who came their passion for the coast path and the benefits of walking really shone through. Despite the weather we all left with new friends, ideas, and experiences, and this showcases the benefits of the Coast Path Connectors project. If you’re interested in leading or supporting short coastal walks around Cornwall please do not hesitate to get in touch.”
North Devon: February and March have seen a hectic round of meetings explaining the CPC Project and where it potentially fits in with existing provision in North Devon. These meetings have included North Devon AONB, Exmoor National Park, local National Trust, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere, England Coast Path (Natural England), Braunton Countryside Centre and Northam Burrows Country Park, all of these organisations offer wellbeing activity on or near the SWCP. The project has been well received by local volunteer infrastructure organisations such as Torridge Volunteer Service, North Devon Voluntary Service, and One Ilfracombe and has resulted in recruitment of 5 volunteers with several in the pipeline. So far walks have been arranged in partnership with Braunton Countryside Centre to commence in May. Encompass are a local charity supporting homeless people and discussions are well advanced to deliver a series of coast path walks in the spring. Further planning meetings are due to take place with organisations that deliver support for young carers and socially isolated people in Ilfracombe.
In Torbay and Dorset, we are making connections with local organisations and looking forward to the project starting in these new locations in the coming months.
Email: Coast Path Connectors Project Manager, Alex Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org